Category Archives: ‘Baby Face’ Willette

Grant’s First Stand: Grant Green

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A quick count indicates that I’ve written about 24 individual recordings on downwithit. However, I’ve not looked at any of Grant Green’s sessions as leader yet, although he played guitar on Don Wilkerson’s Preach Brother, which I posted on in September 2013 here. I currently have at least 20 of his named recording sessions in my collection. There’s no doubting, Grant Green is a particular favourite of mine, so it seems fitting to write about one of his very early LP’s as my 25th review posting.

Sleeve notes and biographies inform us that Grant Green was born in 1935 and raised in St Louis. He started to play guitar at school and jammed with Elvin Jones and John Coltrane, amongst numerous great visiting musicians. His talent was scouted by Lou Donaldson and Green was recommended to Alfred Lion at Blue Note, where his promise as a session lead was instantly recognised. Grant Green’s soloing is typified by picked single notes, rather than chords, which is closely related to his greatest influences being saxophonists, with Charlie Parker foremost amongst them.

Grant’s First Stand was not his first as a leader; that session was put together with the top team of Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones and Wynton Kelly but it remained in the can and was only released as First Session in 2001.

Miss Ann’s Tempo opens matters here, offering a brisk, no- nonsense bebop flavoured statement, which you can listen to on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOfVSBNCtoA

Press or click on the arrow to listen to the track

Lullaby of The Leaves is next up. ‘Baby Face’ Willette gets a long solo, which builds and features a single note held for no less than 14 bars (forgive my poor personal musicianship if I have miscounted this). The track discloses Grant Green’s attention to Charlie Parker recordings but also harks back in one section to Django Reinhardt’s Gypsy guitar sound.

Blues For Willarene, penned by Green, is a real foot shuffler. It is a call and response rocking blues which shows how well versed Green and Willette are in RnB. Baby’s Minor Lope was written by the organist and features a sanctified but funked-up church organ sound on a brisk blues tempo.

‘Tain’t Noboby’s Business If I Do is the worldly wise number strongly associated with Billie Holiday, while A Wee Bit O’ Green is the last track and has a lazy Sunday morning blues feel about it.

Grant’s First Stand is a good set in its own right, although interested newcomers may want to purchase later and more celebrated recordings such as Matador or Idle Moments (not to mention the beautiful sessions featuring Green’s quartet work with Sonny Clark on piano). I’ll return to all of these and more in due course, having finally got round to my first posting centring on this fantastic guitarist.

The band etc: Grant Green (guitar); ‘Baby Face’ Willette (Hammond organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: 28 January 1961. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recording: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Sleeve notes: Robert Levin. Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84064.

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